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The game wants to make people think, debate and learn about the world of fisheries in the Mediterranean
Sea. It represents an effort in order to sensitize higher education students, young professionals and researchers about the

Author / translator FAIR SEA

The game wants to make people think, debate and learn about the world of fisheries in the Mediterranean
Sea. It represents an effort in order to sensitize higher education students, young professionals and researchers about the
hottest issues that the fisheries are experiencing right now such, for instance, overfishing, bycatch, the crisis
of the commercial fishing sector etc.

Created 11 September 2019
Last edited 15 January 2020
Topics Economy, Food, Sustainability
Original Italian

Policy positions

Policy position 1

We need to ensure that fishing and aquaculture are environmentally, economically and socially
sustainable and that they provide a source of healthy food for citizens. Although it is important to
maximize catches, there must be limits and control in order to give priority to habitat protection.
We need to reduce catches in order to make sure that fishing practices do not affect the
reproduction of fish populations.

Policy position 2

Even if geographically constrained, less developed countries along the Mediterranean coast
should claim their EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zones within 200 NM from the coast of a nation). By
doing this they would have direct control on the fish stocks management in their waters, it would
also hinder more developed countries to create social, economic and environmental problems by
exploiting shared fish stocks.

Policy position 3

The commercial fishing sector and the fishing industry behind it must be financially sustained by
the state. The national fishing fleet must receive the right amount of subsidies in order to stay at
pace with technological innovation, sustain the national economic growth and the fish industry.
Moreover, the government must guarantee the competitiveness of the national resources in
foreign markets.

Policy position 4

The solution for the production of marine proteins is aquaculture that should be enhanced and
supported by the governments. In this way the market will be completely independent by fisheries,
thus removing also unsustainable practices and assuring better traceability and control of all the
phases of the production.

Policy position 5

We need to protect our resources - which are already overfished due to the high fishing effort and low management measures implemented in the past. Moreover, if we don’t protect fishing grounds from fleets using unsustainable technologies and poor standards of work, we will see our seas emptier and our markets invaded by low-price fish products.

Story cards


It is clear that at the national and international level the consumer's choices are shifting towards more quality and sustainable products. Following such a trend, also the fish industry is trying to give to itself a better and greener image. New labels have, in recent years, spread through European and world markets (MSCOceanWise, SeaChoice, etc.). However, trust posed by the consumers to these initiatives may be misplaced. As a matter of fact, eco-labels often certify destructive fishing methods or fish stocks largely known to be overfished. The solution is increasing awareness both with respect to fishing practices and to the functioning of certification schemes. The essential information that consumers must know when they purchase a fish product are the details on the origin and on the fishing methods used. Only by increasing awareness and knowledge about the state of halieutic resources and the way they are produced we can induce fisheries to be more sustainable.

Vera Kuzat, 27, NGO activist - The consumer has the power

Species at the sea are under threat due to several anthropogenic stressors. It cannot be neglected that fisheries played a role in reducing substantially several resources at sea (see for example sharks and rays). Yet, our seas are under several other stressors including climatic changes, nutrient inputs, pollution, habitat degradation, noise and many others. However, fisheries are suffering also for the effects of its unsustainable practices and from the effects of other stressors. To make any use of the sea sustainable we need to consider it together with the others in an integrated way. It is very likely, however, that in the short term is the fisheries sector that needs to adapt to the situation. Not considering this will bring the fisheries more close to unsustainability with the potential extinction of the sector.

David Koslovich, 44, Marine ecology scientist

We are the first to claim that marine biodiversity must be protected and conserved. I believe we need to establish more marine protected areas and conservation zones of special interest such as in the Adriatic Sea. However, the conservation of natural marine resources shall not compromise the revenues of the local fish industry. Fisheries, aquaculture and recreational fishing activity are important economic realities for our region and for our country. Therefore, we also need to evaluate the socio-economic impact of the establishment of a MPA beside its biodiversity and conservation impact. We cannot afford to damage our fish production chain.

Simona Caselli, 58, Regional fisheries coordinator - policy between natural and economic conservation

I’m one of the many small Apulian fishermen. Back in the nineties I and my colleagues sensed a decrease in the number of fishes in our fishing Zones. Furthermore, the areas where there were more fish became Marine Protected Areas and we were forbidden to go there. Some years ago we had a meeting between fishermen, the managing body and district and found an agreement: us fishermen were allowed to fish in some of the Park areas, but only in predetermined periods and with low impact fishing techniques (for example, short nets with wide mesh). The result of this agreement is that today we fish more and bigger fishes and we managed to preserve our cultural traditions and biodiversity.

Peppino Liciulli, 59, fisherman - Fishermen may take advantage of MPAs establishment

Working as a fisherman in the past was very very tough. I dare say that fishing then was not sustainable for either fish stocks or for people. We were employed on a piecework basis and would have to work for 20 hours a day. Things were no better from the point of view of biological sustainability; there were no limits on fishing, no quotas or 200-mile exclusive economic zones. The only limitations were the size of our holds and the strength of our arms for casting and hauling in the fishing nets. The fact is that, with no labour standards and no rules on conservation, we were running a fishing marathon: fishing virtually round the clock and competing with other fleets and vessels. Despite that, fish stocks were still abundant. But the fishermen did not benefit from this wealth: too much offer on the market, poor quality catches, and low prices. Fisheries were not good then, as they are not good now.

Francisco Angel Calvo, 54, Captain of a group of 4 fishing vessels - Fisheries were not sustainable, and still aren't

African aquaculture is constantly growing and, thus, the need for product optimisation is increased throughout the value chain. For this reason, we help ensure that the individual fish farmer can achieve the best possible output, and thereby profitability. The major challenges to sustainable aquaculture that must be addressed in the coming years are the following:
- Transparency in the value chain needs to be improved. A few initiatives are tackling this in different ways, but it needs to be more widespread.
- Public opinion needs to be considered. An increased understanding of the benefits of aquaculture would be beneficial to everyone.
- Furthermore, the sector's dependency on marine resources must be lowered – both in terms of potential overfishing, and in terms of the cost of the feeds. A great deal of research is going into this, but so far, fish meal-free diets cannot effectively match the output of feeds for carnivorous fish with fishmeal.

Niels Lundgaard, 35, Commercial Director for Africa, Aqua Taller - What aquaculture industry needs

I was a fisherman until five years ago. I used to fish mainly anchovies through the use of purse seines. The kind of fisheries I used to practice was small scale and could be considered sustainable, but I could not maintain
myself and my family. Revenues were too low and not consistent. Therefore, I decided to change and invest in the tourism sector. Since Croatia is experiencing a boom under the tourist point of view, I started gathering
people coming from Germany, England and Italy organizing for them proper typical Croatian fishing experiences. Almost all the fish caught during such experiences is prepared, cooked and eaten in the boat at the sunset. My economic situation is way better right now and I can afford a decent lifestyle for me and my family.

Ivo Kraskovic, 48, tour operator - I can make more money with tourism than with fisheries

Chioggia has the biggest fish market in Italy in terms of revenue, of the number of fish boats and of the variety of products. We have gross annual revenue of about 40 million Euros. This is the result of our capacity of selling the fishes caught in the Adriatic sea and in the Lagoon of Venice not only all over Italy but also in other European countries such as France, Germany and Spain. Generally, a fish market operator can come here and find every type of fishes, which are mostly unavailable in other parts of the world. A typical example is the "Fasolari", unique typical products from Venice exported all around Italy and the world. We know that the fishing sector is experiencing a crisis in terms of biodiversity loss and in terms of the size of fish caught. However, our market is resisting well during this crisis. As a matter of fact, our annual revenue is stable and we have not seen any consistent change or loss.

Antonio Fortibon, 42, wholesaler at Chioggia fish market - The sector is in crisis but we are resisting well

My family usually eats fish several times per week. I used to buy it in the fish shop or at the market, but then tourism has ruined it, the prices have risen too much, only the tourists can buy it. In the Supermarket, it is much cheaper and so now I buy it there. On every kind of fish there are tags with several things written, codes and acronyms, I never understand what is written on it and I just buy the cheapest one. My son told me once that it is not good to buy fish like salmon and tuna, that I should check before buying, but I don’t know how to do that.

Marjetca Zulic, 63, housewife - I just buy the cheapest fish I find

It is not an easy job. I have to wake up very early in the morning, I wait for the truck and I bring all the fish boxes to the shop. Then in the early morning is a mess, a lot of women coming to buy, you have to keep the prices low or
they will go to the supermarkets. You have to offer more services, more professional, to clean the fish and to know everything about the fish you sell. There are some clients that only care about the prices, but more and
more clients are asking for local fish and want to receive information about how the fish was caught and where. We must be very careful about the size and the weight or we might have serious troubles.

Draga Doncic, 48, employed in a fish shop - We have to keep prices low, but also be professional


Landing obligation

Landing obligation has been adopted by the EU in order to better estimate fish mortality to reduce discarding practices. However, there is a substantial difference from the ecosystem point of view in applying the landing obligation in countries where the management system is based on quotas and in countries where the management system is based on fishing effort and technical measures. What has to change, data collection or management strategy?

Intensive acquacolture

Despite the practice of aquaculture and fish farming has a huge potential of overcoming human needs, it also represents a risk with respect to pollution and deterioration of natural habitats, the spread of pathogens among autochthonous species and the risk of alien species introduction. Can aquaculture be sustainably adapted to the constant population growth?

Anthropogenic introduction of alien species

Alien species represent a great issue for Mediterranean habitats and biodiversity, with potential impacts on commercial species. The main carriers of alien species are ships ballast waters. However, in recent years, many solutions have been put in practice at regional and international level. Should we put more attention on this issue and on the effects of alien species on commercial ones as a contribution to fisheries management?

Pollution effects on fisheries

Oil spills and the release of chemical compounds may significantly affect fish stocks and fish spawning. As a matter of fact, with the constant increase commercial shipping through Mediterranean routes and the investments on offshore and onshore extraction facilities, also the risks of damaging marine ecosystem services (fisheries, tourism, human wellbeing) increases. ICZM is necessary and sufficient in order to mitigate such risks?

Overfishing as a consequence of irrational subsidies and overcapacity

Due to the alarming state in which Mediterranean and Black Sea fisheries are at this moment, national and international institutions should strictly regulate the subsidies for commercial fishing activities through cooperation. Subsidies have short term benefits for fishermen and long term negative effects on fisheries. Should we assure an income in the short term or guarantee fisheries to work in the long term?

Destructive fishing methods

Some bottom trawlers and other forms of fisheries have low selectivity: these fisheries produce a lot of discards and have several impacts on the ecosystem. As part of the management, why not hit with heavy economic disincentives the destructive fisheries in order to speed the transition to more sustainable fisheries production?

IUU fishing

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing remains one of the greatest threats to marine ecosystems due to its potent ability to undermine national and regional efforts to manage fisheries sustainably as well as endeavours to conserve marine biodiversity. Is law enforcement the only solution to such types of environmental issues?

Habitat modifications

Effects of habitat modifications are poorly known, yet intervention on the coasts, on harbours and on coastal transitional environments have increased in the last decades. These habitats are important for the juvenile stages of several species with potentially great impact on marine ecosystems. Should we study more and control more the habitat modifications we are implementing?

Other anthropogenic changes

Climatic changes and nutrient discharges from the mainland can modify the primary producers (small phytoplankton algae) with relevant effects on the whole marine food web and consequently on fisheries. Should we pursue integrated management more seriously instead of blaming fisheries for the actual state of marine species?

Fisheries Subsidies 2

The reduction of fisheries subsidies would cause dramatic consequences for the fishing industry. The cost of products would rise and the vessel owners would optimize their revenues by cutting on employee and salaries.

Fisheries Subsidies 3

It's largely recognized that fisheries are among the primary causes of overfishing. As a matter of fact, direct and indirect government subsidies (tax waivers, deferrals, loans) are measures that do not help the sustainable management of the capacity and the effort of the fishing industry.

Opportune marketing strategy for aquaculture products

Aquaculture is often seen by consumers as a controversial practice. One of the main drivers of such an opinion is scarce knowledge and the low information that reach consumers. A proper traceability standard measure is needed, also including information on farming practices and impacts.

Artificial reefs as a complete management instrument

Artificial reefs may represent a good measure for fish population restocking. They may represent a barrier to hinder unsustainable fishing practices such as some forms of bottom trawlers. Moreover, artificial reefs can support eco-tourism by replenishing barren areas and transforming them in biodiversity hotspots.

Policymakers in between lobbying and mediatic power

Achieving good and effective policy measure with respect to fisheries is very difficult. One of the reasons stays in the situation in which policymakers stand. On one side, they are subjected to lobby pressures form fishing industries (mainly by category associations and syndicates). On the other, to the mediatic and scientific power given to climate changes and the environmental pressures affecting our marine resources.

Fishing subsidies 4

Fishing subsidies allow products to be sold at competitive practices

The too long fish production chain

The high cost of fish products is in part determined by the high number of passages within the production chain. The large distance between fishermen and consumers damages both. The former with low revenues form the products they catch, the latter with higher prices at the market.

Effects of quota systems

The introduction of quotas on fisheries landings might result in adverse effects in the markets. It might imply more imports from other countries with a potential increase in prices. Quotas might impact both the quality of the products for the consumers and the revenues for fish sellers.

Small scale versus large scale fisheries means less fish for both

The conflict between intensive large scale and small scale fisheries happens because they enter in competition for the same resources by using different technologies and above all different effort for catching them. These two ways of production cannot be complementary on with the other, nor, in the medium period, co-exist.

Consumers' preferences

Consumer tastes are very important within the food industry. Also, the fishing industry is highly driven by consumers' choices. By preferring carnivorous species, consumers indirectly contribute to a considerable amount of food waste including the discarding of less commercially interesting species.

Technology has a central role in shortening the fish chain

Thanks to the latest ICT technologies (apps and online platforms) fishermen have the chance to reasonably predict how much fish to catch even before they take the sea and consumers might know available products without moving from home. Such instruments may represent a valuable ally for both fishermen and consumers.

Against the spread of alien species and pathogens

Shipowners are sceptical about ballast water management systems. The first reason is that they don’t see this as a benefit. As a matter of fact, shipowners have almost no interest in ameliorating the quality of water or in avoiding the spread of alien species. However, they have to invest to comply with the requirements. If they cannot comply then they cannot operate.

True ad reliable data are missing

One of the main issues when speaking about fisheries management is the low reliability of the information provided by the fisheries sector. The accuracy of data is increasing but misreported information (on catches, vessels, operations, gears) is a problem influencing both the evaluation of the status of the sector and the management actions to consider.

Too many regulations damage the fisheries sector

Fishing has become a complicated issue also for the increasing number of laws and limits. National and communitarian regulation usually does not help fishermen. It hinders the production and lowers the number of fishing operators.

The problem of fisheries is that fishermen are less and less

The work is tough and revenues are low. Fishing has become more complicated because of rules, competitions, market requests. In these conditions is difficult to attract young people.

Traceability of fisheries products

Increasing traceability of fisheries and aquaculture products will help all the production chain based on sustainable and high-quality products. It will support also local economies and local products.

Decreasing of Euro-Mediterranean fish stocks

Fish stocks in the Mediterranean Sea are deteriorating at an alarming rate. A recent analysis shows that 93% of the assessed fish stocks are overexploited, and a number of them are on the verge of depletion. In addition, the Mediterranean Sea has lost 41% of its marine mammals and 34% of the total fish population over the past 50 years. For this reason, In recent years a series of management plans have been put in practice.

Landings in Mediterranean and Black Sea

In the Mediterranean, landings continued to increase until 1994, reaching more than 1 million tonnes, and subsequently declined irregularly to 850 000 in 2016, with production apparently levelling out in the last three years. In the Black Sea, landings have varied considerably from one year to the next since 1990, showing a generally increasing trend. In 2016, the total reported landings in the Black Sea were 390 000 tonnes.

Occupazione, reddito e tipo di imbarcazione

Of the main vessel groups, trawlers
and purse seiners together represent
64 percent of total revenue; however, they provide only 34 percent of employment in fisheries. In contrast, the situation of the polyvalent vessel group is reversed: it represents 26 percent of total revenue but provides employment to 59 percent of all fishers in the region.

Demersal stocks vs. pelagic ones

Demersal stocks - stocks of fishes living on the sea bottom - continue to experience high fishing mortality rates derived from fishing activity, while small pelagic stocks - fishes which live in the water column - show average mortality rates close to the target management levels. This is due to both spawning and reproduction patterns of the two types of stocks and the instruments used in these types of fisheries.

Ecosystem models assessment

Scientific and policy advice on the status of stocks is mainly provided by single stock assessments analysis. However, there are other modelling tools and methods that can consider also environmental and other species effects. ecosystem approach to fisheries, for instance, will integrate such complexity and can complement the advice on single species in relation to their interactions with other components.

The most targeted species

In the Mediterranean sea, European Hake is followed by red mullet (Mullus barbatus) and sardine (Sardina pilchardus) as second and third species showing higher overexploitation rates, while in the Black Sea horse mackerel (Trachurus mediterraneus ponticus) has the highest average overexploitation ratio, closely followed by turbot (Scophthalmus maximus). (Source: FAO-FishstatJ, 2018)

Multi-annual management plans

Multiannual management plans include a number of management measures (spatio-temporal restrictions, effort and catch limitations, technical measures) and adaptive mechanisms to be implemented in order achieve objectives within a desired timeframe and maintain them. Their scope is to establish specific objectives, indicators and reference points, such as attaining and maintaining maximum sustainable yield related to fish mortality and biomass.

Loss of biodiversity hotspots

Available estimates indicated that between 13% and 50% of seagrass areal extent of P. oceanica in the Mediterranean basin appears to be lost and that the remaining meadows of the Mediterranean may have thinned shoot density by 50% for the last 20 years and have become more fragmented. Considering the changes quantified in P. oceanica areal extent, cover and density, about 6.9% of the potential P. oceanica vegetation would have been lost annually.

Incidental catches of vulnerable species

Sea turtles (around 80 %), sharks and rays (around 16 %) represent the highest share of reported incidental catches of vulnerable species among the total specimens caught. Seabirds and marine mammals, by contrast, are apparently the groups with the lowest amount of reported bycaught specimens (around 4 %of the total)

Fishery discard: unwanted catches thrown at sea

The volume of fishery discards amounts to around 230 000 tonnes per year in the Mediterranean (around 18 % of total catch) and is estimated at about 45 000 tonnes in the Black Sea (around 10–15 % of total catch). In the Mediterranean, fishing practices such as bottom trawlers are responsible for the bulk of discards (generally more than 40 %), whereas discard rates for purse seiners are generally lower (mostly less than 15%)

Small scale fisheries

Most of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea fisheries could be considered as “small-scale”, both in terms of employment (around 150 000 people and 70 300 vessels) and production. Artisanal or small-scale fisheries (SSF) in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea play a significant social and economic role: they represent 84 % of the fishing fleet, 26% of total revenue and 60 % of total employment.

Jobs and revenues

Marine capture fisheries in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea produce an estimated annual revenue of USD 2.8 billion and directly employ just under a quarter of a million people onboard fishing vessels. The average fisher produces approximately USD 14 000 in annual catch value. However, landing value per employee provides a distorted view of remuneration per fisher as it does not consider part-time employment and it does not account for costs.

Aquaculture as an alternative to wild catches

With a 5.8 % annual growth rate during the period 2001–2016, aquaculture continues to grow faster than other major food production sectors. For the first time aquaculture provides 53 % of fish for human consumption. Aquaculture has, therefore, great potential in order to fight alimentation problems and hunger in less developed countries. Nevertheless, most of the farmed species are carnivores and thus require fisheries products to be farmed.

Managing through protection

Marine Protected Areas are considered among the most effective instruments for managing biodiversity conservation and fisheries. The presence of an MPA has the potential to recover the local marine biodiversity providing a spillover effect in the nearby zones where fisheries are allowed. As a result, MPAs may represent a win-win formula in order to improve both local ecosystem resilience and the financial revenues derived from fish products.

Integrated management

The institution of MPAs may sometimes create conflict between local fishermen and MPA operators. However, the cases in which local small scale fishermen have been coopted in the management of the MPA result the most successful ones. Fishermen, allowed to operate under defined rules inside the MPAs, provide both advice on the current status of the natural resources and act as law enforcement against IUU fishing.

IUU fisheries

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated catches (IUU) represent up to 26 million tonnes of fish caught annually in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. These catches are valued at USD 10 to USD 23 billion. IUU is a social and economic problem. However, IUU is problematic also because they can distort official data and can severely hamper an accurate assessment of stock status.

Mediterranean is a biodiversity hotspot

The Mediterranean sea only covers 0.7% of the world’s ocean area it is one of the major reservoirs of marine and coastal biodiversity, with 28% of endemic species and 7.5% of the world’s marine fauna and 18% of its marine flora. This little semi-closed sea is rich in islands and underwater beds and is also a major area of wintering, reproduction and migration of seabirds, sea mammals and migratory fish species.

Total employment in fisheries sector

Total employment onboard fishing vessels in the GFCM area of application is just under a quarter of a million people, with the Mediterranean accounting for approximately 227 250 jobs and the Black Sea accounting for 20 750 jobs. These figures do not include pre- and post-harvest labour, cleaning activity or other in-kind labour, such as support from family members, which by some estimates may account for as much as half of total employment.

Fish consumption

Fisheries and aquaculture products are an important source of protein and a crucial component of a healthy diet. Consumption of fish as food is increasing. This is particularly true for the average European, who consumes 25.1 kg of fish or seafood per year (almost 4 kg more than in the rest of the world).

People's seafood preferences

Three quarters of the fish or seafood consumed in the EU come from wild fisheries, while the remaining quarter comes from aquaculture. The most popular species are tuna, cod and salmon.

Europe's self sufficiency

The EU’s production covers more than two-thirds of its consumption of pelagic fish and more than half of its consumption of molluscs. It is more dependent on external sourcing for salmonids, crustaceans and other fish.

Fish dependency

Countries producing more than consumed are considered autonomous (e.g. Croatia, The Netherlands, and Ireland). However, the vast majority of EU countries depend on fish imports to maintain their consumption levels. The EU’s production covers more than two-thirds of its consumption of pelagic fish and more than half of its consumption of mollusks. It is more dependent on external sourcing for salmonids, crustaceans and other fish.

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